HC Deb 19 June 1924 vol 174 cc2330-3

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, "the daily cruelty to animals and the injuries inflicted on individuals in the performances at Wembley Stadium."


I have to point out that this Motion does not allege any action or inaction on the part of the Government. We have been informed to-day definitely that the Government have not the power to stop these proceedings, and it is an ordinary matter for which the Law Courts are open. It is for persons to take action in the Law Courts, and it does not come under Standing Order No. 10.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

May I, with very great respect, point out that at Question Time to-day the Home Secretary stated that the police had no power to stop cases of cruelty? I think that that matter is open to question by Members of the House, and it was upon that that my Noble Friend framed her Motion. I think it can be shown that the Government have here a definite responsibility If a police officer observes an anima: being ill-treated—for example, a horse being worked in an unfit condition—it is the law, as you are aware, that he can take charge of the horse and stop the alleged cruelty. I understand that the same thing can he done at Wembley, although it may be "a place within the meaning of the Act." I think the House is entitled to the Adjournment to discuss that question, if I might persuade you in the matter. May I ask you to look at it in that light?


It is quite true that the police have that power in cases such as have been cited by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). In this case, I think possibly we have the power to proceed against the officials by summons, and that, as I have already informed the House, we have decided to do. There is just a doubt as to whether we have the power to apprehend the cowboy, but I do not think we should proceed against the cowboy. I want, if we proceed at all, to proceed against those who are responsible for running the exhibition, and we have issued summonses in that direction.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

May I point out that. in the meantime these performances are taking place every morning, and the last two mornings very serious acts of cruelty, of which I have evidence from very reputable witnesses, have taken place. Definite acts of cruelty are taking place every day, and these summonses may take some time to be acted upon. Therefore, I put it as a matter very definite that the Government are lacking in energy in preventing immediate acts of cruelty until effect can be given to the summonses.


I have already informed the House that I have issued the summonses and I have appealed to the authorities to suspend the exhibition or performance until the summonses have been heard. That is the full limit of the powers possessed by the Government.


May I submit that not only are the Government responsible through the Home Secretary, but they have a responsibility likewise through the Department of Overseas Trade in relation to the exhibition, for which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department has replied in this House. When my Noble Friend (Lady Terrington) first raised this issue the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department gave a definite assurance that when the contract was entered into to bring this exhibition to this country an undertaking should be given that there would be no cruelty. In these circumstances, I submit that a breach of that undertaking entitles the Department of Overseas Trade to bring the performances to an end.


May I also submit that the Government, instead of proceeding by summons, might have applied to a magistrate this afternoon for a warrant for the arrest of any of these people. I suggest, therefore, that it is competent for the House this evening to discuss whether the Government are acting with due expedition and pushing the law to the fullest possible extent.


All these are questions beyond the Motion, and I have to deal with the Motion which has been handed to me. It makes no suggestion or allegation of that kind, but calls attention to "the daily cruelty to animals and injury inflicted upon individuals by the performances at Wembley Stadium."


In view of the fact that you do not think the Motion is right, may I ask whether I should be allowed to alter it and to add the words, "The failure of the Government to prevent cruelty"? And may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has taken care of any of the animals that have been already injured?


I have already said on that point that we were informed by the Home Secretary that he had not any power other than by the prosecution, which he has undertaken, to stop the performances.


May I, very respectfully, submit to you that the Wembley Exhibition is an exhibition which is being to some extent supported by public money, and that the conduct of the exhibition is a matter which is being answered for by a Minister of the Crown. In these circumstances, may I ask with very great respect whether it is not competent, assuming that the matter is urgent and is of public importance, for an hon. Member to ask leave to move the Adjournment in order to call attention to what is alleged, rightly or wrongly, to be the failure of the Government. to take adequate steps to control what is now happening there morning after morning? Is it a final answer to every such Motion for a Minister of the Crown to say, not in very positive terms, that he is doubtful whether he has any power to do anything more?


I am quite sure that the fact that Parliament has given a certain limited guarantee does not put that kind of responsibility on His Majesty's Ministers.